There’s an almost invisible line between a red-flag copywriting client and a client who’s just an inexperienced business owner.
The excitement of taking on a new client can blur that line even further, and the next thing you know, you’re asking yourself how you didn’t recognize the red flags in the first place.
Red flags aren’t always glaringly obvious. Some of them are pretty subtle. You might have a gut feeling that something’s off, but you just can’t pinpoint it.
Let’s talk about those times your gut will definitely be right:
- They Delay Signing the Contract
So you’ve had your discovery call, you’ve hammered out the project details, and you’ve sent them the contract…
But it’s still sitting in their inbox, unsigned.
Yeah, people get busy, but stalling to sign the contract is a client red flag. Especially if they’ve started sending you project information or asking you for first drafts.
Your copywriting contract protects you from getting completely screwed over.
Don’t write a single word until they’ve signed.
- They’ve Hired a LOT of Copywriters in the Past….and Fired them All
This one might sting a little, and this one I’m telling you from experience.
If you have a potential client that’s hired 15 copywriters and NONE of them worked out, you’re going to be number 16 on that list.
As up as you might be for the challenge to prove to them that good copywriting works, there are clients out there that will never be pleased, no matter how perfect the copy is.
So if you have a potential client who’s trash talking every single copywriter they’ve ever hired and saying they think you’re the answer to their problems, you’re not. RUN.
- They’re Slow to Answer Emails
If people are slow to answer emails, they’re going to be slow getting what you need. And slow paying your invoice. And slow giving you feedback. And slow signing off on the final drafts.
A slow-responding client does nothing but suck up space on your calendar that could be used for clients who understand the importance of meeting deadlines for their own projects.
So if you’re going back and forth with a client who takes days and days and days to respond to a single email, it’s best to figure out a different method of communication or to cut ties with the client. Slow responders take up a ton of your resources in the long run.
- Their Understanding of the Copywriting Process is Shockingly Out of Touch
Now, there’s a difference between someone who understands the value of great copy but doesn’t entirely know how the process works and someone who THINKS they understand the process and wants to tell you how your job works.
For example, the client that wants you to turn around an entire website’s worth of copy in three days. With no brief. Especially if they’re one of those people who don’t understand their offer, their funnel, or their audience.
This type of client is going to be so mentally taxing that it’s not worth the money, no matter how much they’re paying you.
- They Don’t Understand that Copywriting is Only Part of the Picture
I’d love to say that copy is the answer to every single marketing problem there is, but it’s not.
And unfortunately, some of your clients aren’t going to understand that.
Copy is PART of the marketing strategy. User experience, visuals, the offer itself, and even page load speed all play a part in conversions.
So, if you have a client that says “this new copy is doing nothing for my sales” but their website is virtually unusable and their payment processor hasn’t been updated since 2006, they’re not going to be able to see the whole picture.
They’ll say your copy didn’t work, no matter how perfect it would be in a completely optimized marketing funnel.
- They’re Subtly Scope Creeping (and Yes, They Know They’re Doing It)
This is my biggest pet peeve and probably the biggest client red flag on this list.
Scope creepers are the absolute worst.
If you’re not familiar with the term scope creeping, it’s when your client adds more and more and more onto the project, without the expectation that they’re going to pay you for it.
And even if they do plan on paying you for it, they don’t discuss your availability or interest in the additional work, and just assume you’ll do it anyway.
It’s just as common as it is sketchy.
An example of scope creeping would be if you have a client that hires you to write 50 social media captions, and then halfway through the project, tells you that you need to schedule them out for them. And that you need to find accompanying graphics. And check their DMs while you’re at it.
You were originally hired to just write the captions. Anything else needs another contract AND additional payment.
And yes, scope creepers totally know what they’re doing.
Never Ignore These Copywriting Client Red Flags
Remember: time is the most valuable resource you have. And you DON’T have time for red flag clients. If you see any of these client red flags, it’s a sign that neither your time OR skills will be valued.
RUN the other way.